Does student test data change public opinion about education policies, public leaders? 


Americans’ political opinions have become increasingly polarized over the past 50 years, with voters’ views more often being determined by party ideology. One cause of that polarization is the public’s changing relationship with the media.  A fragmented media environment allows people to choose the news coverage that supports their views. Meanwhile, social media lets them view news stories chosen by like-minded friends and connections.

Though the Internet may be contributing to the problem, it also has given voters access to more information than ever before. The deluge of data may not, however, change voter preferences. A 2015 study published in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science suggests that partisanship affects factual beliefs about politics. The study notes that people’s opinions about the condition of the economy sometimes depends more on the political party of the sitting president than on concrete economic data. Voters can seize on any factor in forming their opinions about an issue or person. For example, less-informed citizens tend put more weight on how attractive a political candidate looks on TV, according to a 2011 study by political scientists at MIT.

But if voters are personally presented with objective information on a subject, will it cause them to reevaluate their mistaken beliefs about that issue? A December 2015 study published in the Journal of Public Policy, “Public Information, Public Learning and Public Opinion: Democratic Accountability in Education Policy,” examines the reactions of residents who learned that their beliefs about the performance of their public education system were wrong. Researchers Joshua Clinton and Jason Grissom of Vanderbilt University surveyed 1,500 people in Tennessee to determine how presenting people with student testing data affects their evaluations of the state public school system as well as their evaluations of local school boards and education policy reforms. Survey participants were asked questions related to student achievement on Tennessee’s end-of-year math tests. They also were asked about gaps in achievement for black students and white students who took the tests.

The study’s findings include:

  • Before being presented with data, survey participants generally knew little about Tennessee students’ math test performance. Only 20 percent of the Tennessee residents surveyed gave the correct answer when asked to identify the approximate percentage of students who scored at grade level or better on math exams. Only 8 percent were able to correctly identify the true amount of the achievement gap separating black students and white students.
  • Tennesseans tended to overestimate student performance. More than half (54 percent) thought student performance was higher than it actually was.
  • Many participants tended to overestimate that size of the achievement gap between black and white students. More than one-third of respondents (36 percent) thought the racial performance gap was larger than it actually was.
  • Respondents who overestimated student testing achievement tended to assign high letter grades to Tennessee schools and the state Department of Education but not necessarily to their local school boards.
  • After receiving testing data, residents’ opinions changed. The authors wrote that “the average effect of receiving the informational update containing the true student performance level is negative” with regard to opinions about Tennessee schools, the state Department of Education and local school boards.
  • Tennesseans who thought there was no achievement difference between black students and white students and Tennesseans who estimated the performance gap to be larger than 35 percent gave the same letter grade to educational institutions.
  • Receiving information about student test scores had no impact on the probability that residents would support any of the six policies designed to improve student performance with which the residents were presented.

The study suggests mixed implications. Survey participants were able to reevaluate their views about Tennessee schools, the state Department of Education and local school boards after receiving objective information about statewide student performance. This indicates that assessments were driven by student achievement rather than an ideological leaning. However, the fact that Tennesseans were not more supportive of education reforms after realizing student performance was lower than they had realized is “potentially sobering for the prospects of citizen-led policy change,” the authors state. Residents’ opinions about education policies, in this case, appear to be driven mostly by ideological and partisan affiliations. It also appears that opinions related to education policy might not be influenced by concerns about achievement gaps between students of different racial groups.

Related research: A 2013 study in the American Journal of Political Science, “Informing the Electorate? How Party Cues and Policy Information Affect Public Opinion about Initiatives,” examines the impact of political endorsements and policy information on voter decisions. A 2014 study in Political Psychology, “Political Parties, Motivated Reasoning, and Public Opinion Formation,” considers the influence of political parties on the public’s political opinions. A 2012 study published in Political Psychology, “Who Deserves Help? Evolutionary Psychology, Social Emotions, and Public Opinion about Welfare,” looks at how culture and perceptions drive public opinions about public welfare programs.


Keywords: education, education reform, school boards, test scores, public opinion, public support, media, accountability

Writer: | January 8, 2016

Citation: Clinton, Joshua; Grissom, Jason. “Public Information, Public Learning and Public Opinion: Democratic Accountability in Education Policy.” Journal of Public Policy, December 2015, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 355-385. doi: 10.1017/S0143814X14000312.

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Source: Does student test data change public opinion about education policies, public leaders? – Journalist’s Resource Journalist’s Resource Newsletter: Lawmakers as lessors and more …

Lawmaker landlords: Members make millions from property owned

How do you measure a year in the life of a lawmaker? How about…rent?

Lawmakers received, at a minimum, $27.1 million from rental, capital gains, interest and dividend income from their property in 2014.

Maybe unsurprisingly, the wealthiest members of Congress received the most. We’ve extensively documented how the richest members of Congress are wealthy, stay wealthy and are actually stratified by wealth among themselves. Atop the list sat the usual members, like Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), for years the richest member of Congress, for whom eight pieces of real estate generated at least $5.45 million in rent and capital gains income in 2014, as Issa’s partnerships with ownership over the property sold some real estate in 2014, producing a profit.

That gave Issa the highest estimated income per property of any member of Congress, according to data culled from personal financial disclosure reports by But immediately behind him, by that measure, was Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who received rent payments from just two entities yet made a minimum of $1.1 million from them.

Click here to read the full article.

Football matters — for research

After a season that brought just one defeat between them, the top two teams in college football will face off tonight in Phoenix for the national championship. Partisans of the University of Alabama and Clemson University (and we have one of each here at CRP) have placed their bets, put on their lucky underwear, prayed a bunch and are ready to crack open some beers. The coach of the winning team will have not only bragging rights but possibly leverage to negotiate an even larger salary package … read more.

CRP welcomes new staff and interns!

Here at the Center for Responsive Politics, we are delighted to introduce several new members to our team (pictured above, left-to-right): Eli Washington, Jia You, Soroush Bassam, and Alex Glorioso (not pictured). To read more about their roles and backgrounds,click here.

A “big ideas” State of the Union speech — but which ideas?

He can’t pass a substantive bill in an election year with a Republican Congress, the thinking goes. So President Obama wanted to talk above politics in his final State of the Union addressTuesday night. Obama introduced the “big things” theme for his speech last week: “That’s what I want to focus on in this state of the union address…what we all need to do together in the years to come. The big things,” he said, in a State of the Union preview video released … read more.

50 years, still producing jobs, economic growth

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (Public Law 84-627), was enacted on June 29, 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law. With an original authorization of US$25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles (66,000 km) of the Interstate Highway System supposedly over a 10-year period, it was the largest public works project in American history through that time.[1]

The addition of the term “Defense” in the Act’s title was for two reasons: First, some of the original cost was diverted from defense funds. Secondly, most US Air Force bases have a direct link to the system. The purpose was to provide access in order to defend them during an attack. All of these links were in the original plans, although some, such as Wright Patterson were not connected up in the 1950s, but only somewhat later.

The money for the Interstate Highway and Defense Highways was handled in a Highway Trust Fundthat paid for 90 percent of highway construction costs with the states required to pay the remaining 10 percent. It was expected that the money would be generated through new taxes on fuel, automobiles, trucks, and tires. As a matter of practice, the federal portion of the cost of the Interstate Highway System has been paid for by taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel.[2]

(From Wikipedia…/Federal_Aid_Highway_Act_of_1956)

50 year anniversary and still producing jobs and economic growth.

What if Congress actually wanted to help businesses (large & small) and US industry with jobs and REBUILDING THE MIDDLE CLASS.

Imagine Wind, Solar, Hydro, Electrical Grid, High Speed Cable Internet, WIFI, High-Speed Interstate Rail (travel/tourism), Intra-state light rail (commuters), Public Utilities (water & sewer), Pubic Parks & Recreation facilities, Rails to Trails, Harbors, Rivers, Canals… 

Application Deadline of February 3rd for “Schools of Opportunity” Recognition of Top High Schools 

BOULDER, CO (January 19, 2016) – High schools from across the nation are now submitting applications to be recognized as part of the Schools of Opportunity project of the National Education Policy Center. The project recognizes public schools for what they do to give all students the chance to succeed, rather than turning to test scores to determine school quality. The application deadline is February 3, 2016.

The Schools of Opportunity project highlights schools that use research-based practices to close the opportunity gaps that result in unequal opportunities to learn, in school and beyond school.

For example, although schools cannot directly integrate neighborhoods by race and class, they can do their best to integrate classrooms by race and class. And although it is difficult for schools to increase learning resources in neighborhoods or homes, they can ensure that rich, engaging learning opportunities are provided to all students while they are in school.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed in the CU-Boulder School of Education, designed the Schools of Opportunity project as a way to highlight the nation’s best schools and practices. The project is led by NEPC director and CU-Boulder School of Education Professor Kevin Welner, and Carol Burris, director of the Network for Public Education, who was the 2013 New York State High School Principal of the Year.

Each state’s effort will also be assisted by a team of evaluators, including New York State Regent Betty Rosa and Vermont State Board of Education member William Mathis, a former finalist for National Superintendent of the Year. The Ford Foundation and the NEA Foundation have both provided funding assistance.

“This project is about rewarding schools for doing the right things, even if they do not enroll the nation’s top students,” said Welner. “It’s also about highlighting the work of schools that are energetically closing the opportunity gap by engaging in research-based practices designed to make sure that all students have rich opportunities to succeed.”

Burris, whose high school had consistently been given top ranks in popular lists of the nation’s top high schools, points out their limitations. “Current programs aimed at identifying the nation’s best high schools include many high-quality schools,” she said. “But the approach they use tends to reward schools that are affluent and/or those that enroll a selective group of students. It is time we recognize schools that do outstanding work with a wider range of students.”

The Schools of Opportunity project will recognize schools based on 11 specific principles identified by experts in the 2013 book, Closing the Opportunity Gap, published by Oxford University Press, which Welner edited along with Stanford University Professor Prudence Carter. The project will recognize schools that use these principles to help to close opportunity gaps in order to improve academic performance.

“The first step in changing the conversation on school quality requires us to acknowledge that achievement gaps are a predictable and inevitable consequence of opportunity-to-learn gaps, which arise in large part because of factors outside of the control of schools,” Burris said. “However, even as schools are affected by larger societal forces, schools and educators can make decisions that either widen or close opportunity gaps.”

The specific practices include effective student and faculty support systems, outreach to the community, health and psychological support, judicious and fair discipline policies, little or no tracking, and high-quality teacher induction and mentoring programs. All identified practices are listed on the Schools of Opportunity website at

The project is grounded in two basic, interrelated truths. Opportunity gaps beyond the control of schools contribute to gaps in achievement. At the same time, excellent schools can help narrow achievement gaps by closing those opportunity gaps within the school’s control.

“It’s because of the first truth,” Welner explained, “that excellent schools cannot be identified by just looking at outcomes. An awful school can have pretty good outcomes if its students are lucky enough to have rich opportunities to learn outside of school. And an outstanding school won’t necessarily have excellent scores if its students are disadvantaged by severe life challenges outside of school.”

“When schools and communities focus resources and efforts on closing the opportunity gaps, they should be recognized, supported and applauded,” he said. “They should also serve as models for those who wish to engage in true school improvement.”

The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog will announce schools that receive recognition in the spring. Top schools will receive acknowledgement at awards ceremonies and in other venues as well.

The Schools of Opportunity recognition process is designed to allow applicants to explain how and why their school should be recognized, and the project will provide any assistance needed to help applicants easily complete and submit their information.

Schools of Opportunity recognitions will be made at gold and silver levels, as well as a special recognition for top schools. Applications are welcomed until February 3rd, with all nomination information and forms available online at

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at:

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Source: Application Deadline of February 3rd for “Schools of Opportunity” Recognition of Top High Schools | National Education Policy Center